Tampa Bay Mangrove Snapper Fishing

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Posted by: captainwoody - Comments Off on Tampa Bay Mangrove Snapper Fishing

Grey Snapper also is known as Mangrove Snapper is one of the most prevalent inshore snapper species and is one of the few that can be caught regularly through Tampa Bay. Having a mouth full of sharp teeth they’re shaped like most other snappers, displaying colors ranging from varying shades of bronze to grey.

Inshore they average between 6-18 inches and weight between 1-2 pounds and only on a rare occasion can you catch one larger. Eventually, they will travel offshore maturing and often reaching sizes over 20 pounds

Finding Mangrove Snapper Inside: Offshore you will find them on reefs, rock piles, wrecks or other structures. But on the other hand, if you’re looking on the inside snapper can be found around any type of structure. And if you ever wondered why they’re called mangrove snappers; well it’s because in their juvenile life they spend most of it in and around the mangrove shorelines. But they are also frequently found around other structures like bridges, docks, oysters, rock piles, inlets, and piers.

They tend to be bottom dwellers and it’s rare to find them near the surface, however, many times they will come up in the water column but mostly you’ll find them from mid-depth down to the bottom.

Tackle: Since inshore, snapper seldom get above 2 pounds any inshore, light to medium weight rod with a light open face spinning reel would be ideal; remembering to keep the rod and reel on the lighter side.

Line:Since snapper are usually found near heavy cover braided line is your best choice. Besides being extra sensitive and strong braid has great abrasion resistance. So I would suggest Seaguar Smackdown in the 10-15 pound test class. And because they have excellent eyesight I would also suggest a low visibility leader. Seaguar fluorocarbon works flawlessly because of its abrasion resistance and its ultra-low visibility in the water. Use a 10-20 lbs. leader approximately 24” long. I like a drop shot rig but in shallow, slow current a #3 split shot about 10” up the leader from your circle hook works fine.

Using Artificial Lures: I’ve heard stories of folks catching inshore snapper on artificial lures but I’ve never seen it done.  I will say, I have had success with Doc’s Goofy Jig w/ Teasers around the bridges while fishing for pompano. I’ve caught several snappers. But other than that I’ll digress from expounding on artificial’s and go on to what I know catches snapper, which is live and cut bait.

Using Live Bait: Using live bait is the most successful method of catching snapper. They are ravenous predators taking many types of live and cut baits. The stand-alone best live bait for inshore snapper is mud minnows. Mud minnows seem to last longer in captivity, are durable on the hook and are ostensibly irresistible to snapper, flounder, and trout. Other good baits include small sardines, small pinfish, shrimp and shrimp pieces, fiddlers, mud minnows.

Live Bait Rigs: For inshore snapper, the two most popular rigs are the fish finder (aka Carolina rig) and the knocker rig.

Fish Finder: The fish finder rig is a hook attached to a 12-20” leader. Above the leader is a barrel swivel, a bead and then an egg sinker. When using this rig, use only the amount of weight needed to hold the bottom and no more.

Knocker Rig: A knocker rig has a hook attached to a 15”-24” leader that is directly attached to the main line. An egg sinker is threaded on to the main line and allowed to free float on the line all the way down to the eye of the hook. This allows the bait to be held directly on the bottom and with a small jig of the rod tip produce a small knocking sound when the sinker knocks into the eye of the hook.

Live Bait Techniques:After locating a structure that is believed to hold fish, cast your bait a few yards up current of the structure and allow it to stay there. When linking to structure snapper become ambush hunters shooting out of the structure to take the bait. Mud Minnows, Greenbacks, and Shrimp are the BEST baits for inshore Mangrove Snapper

The deepest water is not always the most productive when fishing from piers, docks, or bridges. The most productive will be the areas with cover and current that will attract snapper.  Learn to read the structure.  Look under the pier/dock/bridge for any areas where the current changes direction, has a rock pile, a hole caused by the current or any other structure and drop your bait just up current of the point you’ve found.

Snapper is an aggressive striker but at times can be subtle eaters as well. Most days they will hit so hard it beds the rod immediately, but occasionally they will barely touch the bait and sit still while eating it. On days that the fish are hitting lightly, reduce the size of your hook and the weight. This will make the strike easier to sense.

Florida law requires in-line circle hooks be used when fishing for reef fish which all snapper are considered. When using these hooks be aware not to use the classic upward jerking motion to set the hook. These hooks were designed to grab the fish by the side of the mouth as it is being pulled out of their mouth, so all that is needed is a slight upward/side motion and to begin reeling in the line and the fish is hooked.

Captain Woody Gore’s Guide Service is the area’s top outdoor fishing guide service. He’s guided and fished the Tampa, Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Tarpon Springs, Bradenton, and Sarasota areas for over fifty years and offers world class fishing adventures and a lifetime of memories.

Single or Multi-boat Group Charters are all the same. With years of organizational experience and access to the areas most experienced captains, I can arrange and coordinate any outing or tournament. With access to a fully staffed guide service we can accommodate any size Group or Tournament; just tell me what you need and it’s done.

Website www.captainwoodygore.com

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